You’re a student of the translators/foreign language faculty and have no idea what the future holds for you. In fact, most of the time, you have no clue about what’s happening. You go to classes, take exams, come home, and repeat. We understand. We’ve been there too, even worse, in fact! It can get even tougher, as you already know if you’re taking any foreign language courses. The good thing is that you haven’t forgotten your initial purpose for choosing this field.
The translator profession is not easy, but the satisfaction you get at the end of the day is unparalleled. Being able to translate a book, a manual, a document, or anything else to help another person or even millions of people understand a message is just incredible. Even if you go through hell to get there, becoming a translator comes with irrefutable advantages for you.
How to become a translator?
The path to becoming a translator starts with choosing a foreign language university. There, you’ll learn everything about a specific language, such as English, French, German, or even some more exotic languages that some universities now offer, even in Romania. Once you graduate, you can further specialize and become certified in a specific language.
Yet the real “fun” starts from this point on. In order to work as translators, have a stable income, and maintain some degree of normalcy, it’s crucial to understand the intricacies of this industry. There are hundreds of articles on the internet about this topic. We’ve selected 10 real, tested, and practical tips on how to become a successful translator in the years ahead.
Pick one language – Most translators expect too much of themselves, which is why many give up on this profession too quickly. If you want to become a successful and long-term translator, choose just one language, and become the absolute best at it. Focus on every aspect of that language, and you’ll go a long way. You’re not Google Translate; you’re just a human.
Select a domain/topic/industry – If you’ve chosen a language, you still have an important decision to make before becoming a translator. You can’t translate a little bit of everything. Instead, you must focus on a specific field, preferably one related to your professional or personal background. If you were a doctor, you could specialize in medical translations, and if you were a pilot, you could translate for airlines.
Don’t stop at “college” – You’ve graduated from college, so congratulations! However, your education is just beginning. Since personal experience is the best teacher, which means real-life practice, it’s equally important to keep learning. Look for online courses related to your language, browse learning resources on the internet, and read books in the library. Continue to improve, as all great translators do, and you’ll receive better projects as you do so.
Start with freelancing jobs – There are countless websites on the internet where you can do more than just scroll through pictures. Some, like Upwork, Fiverr, PROZ, and others, can bring in significant income if you’re just starting out. Create a profile, familiarize yourself with the platform, and actively search for clients. Nope, offers won’t just fall from the sky, especially in the first year at the job.
Look for an agency – Once you’ve gained some experience, you can try working with a translation agency. We know of one but won’t name names (*winks*). It’s time to seek an agency when you want more stability and financial security from your work. As a freelancer, you’ll have good periods, but you’ll also have some tough ones.
Deliver on time – Nothing is worse than delivering a translation after the deadline has passed. It’s not as bad as sending a translation full of errors, but late deliveries can cause a lot of problems. That’s because the entire order is thrown off schedule. Keep track of all delivery dates and times in a notebook or an app and have them readily available throughout the day.
Plan your day well – You might be a master of German. You may speak it better than those people at RTL. However, without a well-structured daily schedule, you won’t get very far. Whether you work from home or at an agency, organize your time. Meet your deadlines, both your own and those that come with the project. Be timely, or you won’t achieve much.
Practice patience and understanding – We know it sounds like we’re about to send you on a meditation retreat, but that’s not the case. Patience is extremely important in translation. Regardless of your expectations, people will always have issues, be late, or have a bad day. If you understand this, you’ll have a decent experience as a translator. If not, you’ll be able to face it for at most a month…
Read – You’ll do a lot of writing as translators. Typically, you write exactly what you read in the source language, but in the target language. However, in addition to that, the writing itself might require some stylistic adjustments that you can only find in your own backyard. Reading is what will help you develop your vocabulary the best, both in the source and target language. Read every day. Surprisingly, it truly works!
Don’t forget to take breaks – Don’t believe for one moment that we’re suggesting you should turn into a robot. On the contrary, if your workday ends at 5 PM, shut down your laptop, lock it away, and throw the key into the river. Enjoy life. During work, allocate 5-10 minutes of break time for every hour, even if it’s just to rest your eyes and stretch your back. It matters.